If there is a West Coast craft beer rock star to rival Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione, it is very likely Stone Brewing's Greg Koch. Known for beers that push the limits, and rambling manifestos on the back of each bottle, Stone entered the craft beer scene in 1996.
I was still somewhat of a craft beer neophyte at the time, my experience being limited to the more ubiquitous Sierra Nevada, Anchor, and Samuel Adams offerings. I was living in Prescott, Arizona in 1997, and while on my regular trip to the "good beer" store, I saw a twenty-two ounce bottle with a big red gargoyle on it and in bold letters the words "Arrogant Bastard". I bought it on sight. I figured it was going to be terrible, to be honest. I had never heard of Stone Brewing Company, and in my youthful (dare I say) arrogance, assumed that if I had not heard of it that it could not be any good. I have never been happier to be wrong. It was one of the most full-flavored, delicious, and complex beers I had ever had. At 7.2% it was deceptively strong, but delicious, and opened my eyes to a whole new level of brewing I had not known existed. The bottle went on my shelf as a trophy, and I bought many more after that.
Arrogant Bastard has become somewhat of a flagship for Stone, and it definitely exudes the anti-macro beer attitude that epitomizes Greg Koch's view of the beer landscape. The back label of the bottle pulls no punches:
This is an aggressive ale. You probably wont like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territorymaybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you its made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps youre mouthing your words as you read this.
Not one to sit idly by, the magicians at Stone have, over the years, played with the Bastard. In 1998, they released Double Bastard, "not to be wasted on the tentative or weak", coming in at an eye-popping 11.2% ABV. It was bigger, bolder, and offered not only in the standard 22 oz. bottles, but also a limited number of 3 liter bottles. Just another middle finger to those "undeserving of this liquid glory." In 2004, Oaked Arrogant Bastard hit the shelves, essentially the same as the original but now with American Oak added during the aging, and bringing a whole new level of complexity to the already amazing beer.
Fast forward to 2010. Stone is a big player nationwide in the craft beer world, distributing to over forty states. Greg Koch is one of the more recognizable faces (at least his "Greg Face" is) in the industry, and the beers are consistently rated highly across the style spectrum. Enter the Lukcy Basartd. Yep, that's how it is spelled. And the entire label is written that way, because "the mree fcat taht yuore hdoinlg tihs bttloe in yuor hnad ianidctes taht yuore pyiang antteiton, wihch ideitammley stes you arpat form the msseas. It aslo mkaes you one Lukcy Basartd." According to the press release, "This is a once only special release commemorating the 13 year anniversary of when Arrogant Bastard Ale was first released upon the unsuspecting public. That is, once only unless we decide to make it again."
The Lukcy Basartd pours a deep, dark red with a fluffy yellowish tan head. The aroma is dominated by hops; fresh pine, caramel, citrus rind, light fruits, as well as biscuit malt and wood. The flavors pop with bittersweetness, lots of pine and citrus bitterness with a hint of caramel sweetness, and the oaked notes at the finish. The carbonation is present, but perfectly balanced. The hops are the star of this beer, though, and it is amazing.
This is possibly the only time this beer will ever be made, so if you have not already, go out and grab what you can. Drink it. Revel in the liquid arrogance and be proud of being one Lukcy Basartd.